Formatting eBooks from MS Word

Compiling your book into ePub and Mobi requires that the manuscript be in a text editor of some sort.  It doesn’t matter if you use Vellum or Jutoh, or one of the many other epub compilers, or if you upload your book direct to the retailers and let them do the heavy lifting, you still need to have the manuscript in a well formatted, clean file to ensure it properly renders into a nice-looking ebook.

The two main stardards for text editors are Microsoft Word and Scrivener.  I can’t find any research or stats to determine the breakdown of how many writers use what, but I suspect that Microsoft Word edges out Scrivener primarily because most of us use/used MS Word in our day jobs, so there’s no switch over required.

Building a clean Word file saves you mega time fixing things after you’ve compiled.  Or having to re-upload and/or recompile over and over.  Most of the ugly formatting and layout issues in ebooks is the result of badly built text files that were used to make them. 

For instance:  If you use the Search & Replace function in Word to find all the spaces at the end of your paragraphs, and stray spaces at the front of your paragraphs, you will instantly avoid the mystery blank pages that sometimes appear in your formatted ePubs and Mobis (because that space drops over to the next page).

Ditto, removing the double space after the period–an ingrained habit if you’ve had any typing lessons at all, and impossible to train yourself out of.

I had intended to do a breakdown on using Word this week.  As you saw in my weekly blog post on Tuesday, I’ve had to hit the mattresses to get this horribly overdue book finished.  That means everything except bare necessities gets off-loaded (and I should do a post about hitting the mattresses some time soon — I talk about it every now and again, but I don’t think I’ve ever defined it).

I would have ditched doing this post, too, but discovered that the Kill Zone blog has done the work for me.  They recently ran a post on formatting your ebooks with MS Word. So I am referring you to that post. 

But the Kill Zone blog is a great blog to follow, anyway.  It is run by a group of thriller writers, including James Scott Bell, who contribute a great many craft and business posts each week.   When you’re done with the MS Word post, maybe scroll back through their archives.  They’re on hiatus for a bit over the Christmas break but there is years of posts to keep you occupied.

Until next week.


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